Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Graphic Lit -- 3/5

"The Push Man and Other Stories"
by Yoshihiro Tatsumi
Drawn and Quarterly, 208 pages, $19.95.

Those who think that all manga consists of Japanese schoolgirls with big eyes and spiky hair will be surprised by this collection of bleak, naturalistic tales, the first in what will apparently be an ongoing series of Tatsumi’s work.

Highly regarded in Japan, Tatsumi tells stories of down-on-their-luck folks — pimps, prostitutes and blue-collar workers whose desperation and/or frustration push them headlong into tragedy.
Few of the tales here end happily, but they reflect a social milieu that Westerners can easily identify with. Tatsumi’s flat, low-key style goes against the grain of what most folks think of as "manga," but it’s no less captivating and, in many cases, much more emotionally rewarding.

"The Dreaming Vol. 1"
by Queenie Chan
Tokyopop, 192 pages, $9.99.

Twin sisters discover mysterious doings afoot at a creepy Australian prep school in the first volume of this gothic horror series. Just about every cliche you’d expect to find in this type of story is included here, which makes it a double shame that the characters are so paper-thin. The sisters themselves, are almost impossible to tell apart. Later volumes may offer more details, but few readers will be willing to continue on.

"DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore"
DC Comics, 304 pages, $19.99.

This collection of self-contained tales is notable solely for the inclusion of three stories: the Superman tales "For the Man Who Has Everything," "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow" and "Batman: The Killing Joke." Few of the other works included here would ever be considered among Moore’s best.

Unfortunately, in the case of the "Man of Tomorrow" story, a good part of the introductory text is missing for some odd reason, marring the book considerably. If you can’t locate the original comics these stories appeared in, it’s a decent collection, but there’s no reason to pick this up otherwise.

"Rocky Vol 1: The Big Payback"
by Martin Kellerman
Fantagraphics Books, 116 pages, $12.95.

If nothing else, this Swedish comic strip about a sad-sack twentysomething and his group of friends proves that pitiable slackers know no borders. Rocky is in many ways a typical young hipster, in that he’s frequently unemployed, irresponsible and completely unlucky in love. It goes without saying, then, that this collection of strips is a laugh riot, full of moments that will instantly ring true to anyone who’s ever been 23 and desperate for affection. Kudos to Fantagraphics for bringing this series to American shores, and for doing such a nice job with the translation.

"Tag, You’re It"
by Sook Kim
CPM Manga, 176 pages, $9.99.

Going to the dentist and getting bad girlfriend advice are about as dramatic as the short stories in this collection get. The stories are cute and will no doubt appeal to young readers, but there’s no getting around their shallowness. I like Kim’s art style — her characters have a rubbery, cartoonishness about them that’s appealing. It’s just that the stories themselves are too superficial to warrant any repeated readings.

Copyright The Patriot-News 2006

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